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Hazen's previous schedule favors new challenges at North Dakota Class B state volleyball tournament

In the final three weeks of the regular season, the Hazen volleyball team played three matches with at least six days in between each. The Bison won all of them.

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Hazen volleyball players celebrate a kill during their 3-2 match win over Trinity in the Region 7 championship Nov. 12 at Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Press Photo by Colton Pool)

In the final three weeks of the regular season, the Hazen volleyball team played three matches with at least six days in between each. The Bison won all of them.
During the Region 7 volleyball tournament, which ended last Thursday, the team played three matches in four days. The Bison won all of them.
Hazen has shown it is impervious to scheduling, which bodes well for a team that had to wait a another week before traveling to face Langdon Area-Munich at 11 a.m. today at the Minot State Dome in the opening round of the Class B state volleyball tournament.
“It can be tough not having games or that constant competition,” senior outside hitter Steph Ziegler said, “but coach always told us we had to make sure we come back every day focused in order to keep getting better.”
The Bison rolled to a 28-10-1 record this year, showcasing the wherewithal to not be affected by much else either.
At such a critical junction in the season, the team appears to have a firm grasp of what it needs to do to stay successful.
“We’ve been really focusing on serve-receive and our passing because that sparks everything else,” sophomore outside hitter Raquel Doll said. “That sets up the set and the rest of our offense.”
Bison head coach Linette Irwin said she is impressed with the team’s dedication to keeping the ball in play in this latter part of the year.
“I think our serve-receive was key,” she said, speaking specifically about the Region 7 tournament, where the Bison defeated Trinity in a five-set championship match. “We got a lot of swings, so our passing was really good. Our service percentage was higher than it has been, so we’re taking care of the ball more.
At the Laker Invite in Burlington in early October, Hazen went 1-3-1, a record that included a two-set loss to Langdon Area-Munich. The Bison haven’t lost since, dropping just six sets during their current 10-match winning streak.
“We’re really peaking right now,” Irwin said. “We had a great week of practice, and we’re feeling good about our chances.”
The Cardinals, though, are about as equally as hot right now.
They’ve gone 38-2-2 this year, with both losses coming in tournaments in matches that never went past three sets. In every win they’ve posted this season, no team has taken more than one set from them, and that’s only happened five times.
“They’re a really strong team. They’re tough servers,” Irwin said. “They have good ball control, but they put up a small block, so that might be something we can exploit. Trinity’s block was much bigger with those taller girls they have.”
Ziegler added: “Serving is one of their huge strengths. Defensively, they pick up a lot of balls. In order to play against them, we’ve practiced hitting to different parts of the court to know where we can score and how we can score.”
The week away from competition, which at this point is more routine than an impediment, has allowed the Bison ample time to prepare for what now becomes the most important match in their season.
“The kids are being really smart,” Irwin said. “They’re doing the things we ask them to do and overall just have a great desire to win.”

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